Have Tata Motors finally hit the nail on the head?
Get used to that and you find yourself in a cabin that is massively improved compared to anything Tata Motors have ever made, in terms of quality, fit-finish and general build integrity; if not gate-crashing the Toyota party this definitely puts a foot in the door. Crank up the motor and it settles into a refined idle. The lever for the automatic gearbox takes an unusual amount of effort to slide into Drive and we are off. And the first thing that strikes you is the ride quality. So you try prodding it some more, find and hit all the holes and bumps in the road you can find, and the Hexa completely astonishes you with its ride quality. Thanks to those big wheel and optimised suspension settings the Hexa delivers what is the best ride, over bad road, that you can get on anything sold in India today. I was chasing an enthusiastically driven Innova Crysta on the way back from our drive and while I had to hustle to keep pace on the open road, when we hit a few bad patches the Crysta just disappeared from my rear-view mirror. And at no point did the Hexa feel like it was about to break.
The handling is also good though it doesn’t feel so initially. Since you sit quite high the body rolls feel exaggerated and with the steering offering nothing in the way of feel, you don’t get that initial confidence to push the Hexa. However once you start poking the envelop, you do sense that understeer doesn’t rear its ugly head very early on and the Hexa can carry a fair amount of speed through corners. What I didn’t like were the brakes that felt spongy and lacked feel. It didn’t lack in retardation and even on dirt the ABS didn’t kick in early, but a little more feedback from the middle pedal would have been nice.
With 153.9bhp, performance is brisk and with 400Nm of torque the automatic gearbox never made the Hexa feel sluggish. In fact the shifts are quick, whether up or down the ’box (not DSG quick, mind you) and it always feels refined. We did try the Race mode on the automatic gearbox and it did work as advertised, keeping the engine in the meat of the torque band and delivering rather brisk progress. In fact for its size and positioning the Hexa definitely feels quick enough and the automatic gearbox suits it perfectly. If you ask me the Hexa automatic is the one to buy, shame it doesn’t get the AWD torque-on-demand transfer case, and even more frustratingly the automatic will only be available on the top-end Hexa.
To answer the question we asked at the start – yes! – Tata Motors have definitely hit the nail on the head with the Hexa and could mark the point at which Tata Motors’ fortunes turned around. The quality is a huge step up from anything we’ve seen in a Tata; everything is tight and well-finished with not a squeak or rattle to be heard. The engine has strong performance and is mated to an exceptionally good automatic gearbox. The ride quality is incredible over poor roads. But most of all the Hexa feels genuinely desirable. MPVs aren’t desirable, you buy them for practical reasons, but the Hexa feels like something you’d want to have, versus something that you have no alternative for. If now Tata Motors can price it well (we recommend a lakh cheaper than the Innova, which would be around Rs 19 lakh ex-showroom for the automatic) then it could very well hoover up all demand left by the Innova vacating that space and going upmarket.
evo Rating: 4.5/5